Getting Your Bluetooth Headset to Work in XP

by Wei-Meng Lee

If you are the owner of a Bluetooth headset, you will be glad to know that besides using it with your cellular phone, you can also use it together with your Windows XP PC. However, you may have attempted to pair up the headset with your PC only to find out that the built-in Bluetooth stack in Windows XP Service Pack 2 does not support the headset.

In this article I am going to show you the steps to prepare your PC so that it can work with your Bluetooth headset. I will be using the Billionton USB Bluetooth adapter as well as the Motorola HS820 Bluetooth headset (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1. The Billionton USB Bluetooth adapter and the Motorola HS820 Bluetooth headset

What Are Bluetooth Profiles?

To be successful as a consumer technology, Bluetooth needs to be widely supported by vendors. Interoperability--the ability of different devices (from different manufacturers) to work with one another--is the key factor in securing this broad support.

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Version 1.1 of the Bluetooth specification (the current version is 2.0, but most devices are still based on Bluetooth 1.1 and 1.2) has 13 profiles. A profile is a description of a particular functionality, and Bluetooth device manufacturers use these profiles as a guide. With this approach, vendors can be sure that their devices will work with current and future Bluetooth products. Let's take a closer look at the 13 profiles defined in Bluetooth 1.1:

Generic Access Profile (GAP)--Defines how two Bluetooth devices discover and establish communications between each other. The GAP is the "mother" of all profiles, as it defines the modes and procedures that all the other profiles use.

Service Discovery Application Profile (SDAP)--Allows Bluetooth devices to query the services available on other Bluetooth devices.

Cordless Telephony Profile (CTP)--Defines how a Bluetooth device can be used as a cordless phone.

Intercom Profile--Defines how two Bluetooth-enabled phones can connect with each other directly without the use of the public telephone network.

Serial Port Profile--Defines how two Bluetooth devices can communicate with each other by using virtual serial ports. Using this profile, Bluetooth communication can be treated as just another serial communication.

Headset Profile--Defines how a headset can communicate with a Bluetooth device.

Dial-Up Networking Profile--Defines how a Bluetooth device can connect to a Bluetooth-enabled modem or mobile phone.

Fax Profile--Defines how a Bluetooth device can connect to a Bluetooth-enabled fax device, such as a fax machine or a fax-enabled mobile phone like the Sony Ericsson T68i.

LAN Access Profile--Defines how a Bluetooth-enabled device can connect to a network using PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol).

Generic Object Exchange Profile (GOEP)--Defines a set of protocols that applications use for exchanging objects.

Object Push Profile--Used together with the GOEP to send and receive objects, primarily for exchanging electronic business cards.

File Transfer Profile--Used together with the GOEP to transfer files between two Bluetooth devices.

Synchronization Profile--Used together with GOEP to synchronize calendar and address information between two Bluetooth devices, such as a laptop and cell phone.

For other profiles in the newer Bluetooth specifications, refer to the Wikipedia Bluetooth entry.

What Is a Bluetooth Stack?

A Bluetooth stack is an application installed on your computer that interacts with your Bluetooth devices. Two Bluetooth stacks are widely in use today:

  • The Microsoft Bluetooth stack, which comes with Windows XP Service Pack 2
  • The Widcomm Bluetooth stack
Most Bluetooth adapters use the Widcomm Bluetooth stack driver. Widcomm (acquired by Broadcom, licenses its software to most Bluetooth manufacturers. Consequently, the installation, configuration, and use of different Bluetooth devices on Windows have a nearly identical look and feel.

The problem with the Bluetooth stack built into Windows XP SP 2 is that it has limited support for profiles. In particular, it does not support the Headset profile required to connect with Bluetooth headsets, and hence your Bluetooth headsets will not be able to work with your Windows XP PC.

To overcome the limitations in the Windows Bluetooth stack, you can install the Widcomm Bluetooth stack drivers from the manufacturer of your Bluetooth device. You can download the latest drivers and support software from the adapter vendor's web site. Because each vendor customizes the Widcomm software slightly, you should not use drivers from a vendor other than the one that manufactured your Bluetooth adapters.

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